Thursday, March 8, 2018

Shabbat-O-Gram for March 9


Last week, as part of Greenwich High School's Diversity Week, I joined a panel that also included Muslim, Christian and Hindu clergy.  We engaged in a spirited dialogue with over a hundred students - it was wonderful!  But what was worth far more than all the words...was this picture.  Seeing us stand and hold hands together (which we did at the end) spoke volumes about the potential for us - and for their generation - to build a better world.

Mara and I also had the pleasure last Sunday of escorting our TBE teens to Manhattan, where we spent time at the Museum of the Jewish Heritage, then ate lunch at a kosher dairy restaurant and dessert in the Village at the very trendy (and also kosher) 
Cookie DŌ for dessert. When at the Heritage Museum, check out a brand new exhibit, where students interact with holograms of actual survivors.  It was both astonishing and a little spooky; through this technology, their stories will live forever - in their own words!

CHECK OUT ALL OUR Purim and late winter photos!


Last week I wrote about Poland's new Holocaust Law and why, as troubling as it is, it should not provoke a travel boycott of that country.  I believe strongly that Jews need to visit those sacred grounds where our people were murdered.  If we want to boycott a nation, we should go right to the source of so much that is wrong with our world today and boycott Putin's Russia.  I can't for the life of me imagine visiting Russia right now, not that my few dollars will make that much of a difference in that massive kleptocracy.  Putin is pulling off the neat trick of simultaneously menacing American democracy and Israeli security (in Iran and Syria) - and getting away with it.   A version of my comments from last week's O-Gram appears in this week's Jewish Week.  

Meanwhile, Poland's president apologized today for a campaign of anti-Semitism in 1968.  That's progress, but I suppose he had little choice - it's hard to pin that one on the Nazis.  I do sense a desire on his part to walk back some of the more damaging implications of the Holocaust Law, like, for instance, that it could land 90-year-old survivors in jail, simply for telling the truth.  But I'm surprised that #boycottRussia has not yet become a thing.  Americans of
all political views - 72 percent in the latest polls -  unite in our outrage at foreign election meddling.  We are aghast at what Putin has done to our world.  It's never good to come together in hatred, but it is perfectly appropriate to unite to bring a perpetrator of evil to justice - and that the injustice not be allowed to happen again.  The least we can do is to not place more rubles in the coffers of the Kremlin. 

Shabbat Across Stamford

On Friday night, Shabbat Across Stamford will take place at the Stamford Athletic Club on Third St.  Registration begins at 4:30 and candle lighting will take place at 5:30, followed by two services, traditional and progressive.  We'll all get together after that for dinner and a chance to hear this generation's leading scholar of American Jewish History, Jonathan Sarna, who has spoken here before and is always erudite and on point.

For those who want to attend the service only, no registration is necessary.  Remember that we will not have a service at TBE tomorrow evening.  We will be reciting yahrzeit names at the progressive service on Friday and then back here the next day at our regular Shabbat morning service.

Parking information:

  • At the Stamford Athletic Club: Spots are available in the outdoor parking lot and in the indoor garage behind the building.
  • On 3rd Street: Parking is allowed on both sides of the street. All posted parking rules are still in effect.
  • At the Tully Center: The lower lot is available to park in on 3rd Street. It is a short walk down the street to the Stamford Athletic Club.
Three years ago, when we first came together for a community-wide Shabbat, I wrote about it for a national audience, because what we were doing was so unique - and so difficult.   Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, the original inspiration for the Shabbat Across America program, praised Stamford's effort, writing:

"I would like to commend the Stamford Jewish community for working together to create a beautiful, unified Shabbat Across America event, the creation of which was dramatically described by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman in his op-ed column, "A Shabbat Across the Bow." The Stamford community, which uniquely gathered all the religious denominations together under one roof, was one of several communities that participated this year in NJOP's new CommUNITY Shabbat Across America and Canada initiative. The other communities were in Staten Island, West Hartford, Conn., and Winnipeg, Canada. These special programs were only a small fraction of NJOP's recently concluded campaign, which featured over 40,000 participants at 565 partner locations throughout all 50 states (an NJOP first) and Washington D.C., six Canadian provinces, and abroad in four other countries. We also note that this year we welcomed our one-millionth Shabbat Across America and Canada participant experience.

Rabbi Hammerman deftly described the challenges faced when making sensitive, value-based, decisions that attempt to take everyone's individual practices and religious standards into consideration, which can only succeed when one recognizes the overarching virtue of Jewish unity."

You can see my original column here, where I describe the significant challenges we faced, and how we overcame them, for a higher purpose.

Three years later, we are now doing this for the fourth time.  I must confess that after last year's, I felt that Shabbat Across Stamford, while a worthy idea, was beginning to lose momentum, and that maybe we had made our point and it's time to move on to other projects.

But people in the community kept telling us that they wanted to see this again - and so here we are, and I'm glad we'll be back on Third Street tonight.  The venue is far from perfect, the logistics are challenging (e.g. the acoustics, with a special Shabbat-ready sound system), the costs are not trivial and there are other risks.  There always are, when it comes to family.  But I do know that when we start singing and eating and schmoozing and laughing together, none of that will matter. And I also know that Jonathan Sarna is the perfect speaker for an event like this.... If we can hear him ��

My thanks to the UJF professional leadership. The lay committee and my clergy partners for pulling this together.
Passover Preparations - Embracing the Stranger

With Purim behind us, it's time to focus on Passover, which will be here before you know it! 

Also, if you need a Sale of Hametz Form, you can find it here.

Next Tuesday, March 13, we kick things off with our Women's Seder, and the following Thursday, March 22, our annual Interfaith Seder will once again be hosted by Grace Farms.  Then, the Chocolate Seder on March 23.  Due to lack of interest, we will not be doing a Congregational Second Night Seder this year.

-         Women's Seder, Tuesday, March 13
-         Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms Thursday, March 22
-         Chocolate Seder and Family Shabbat Dinner, Friday, March 23
At the Interfaith Seder, our theme this year will be "With Open Arms," with tie in to the famous injunction of Exodus, "Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  We'll be hearing from a remarkable young man, Stamford High School student Erwin Hernandez, from Guatemala, who was granted political asylum a year and a half ago.  His challenges were already daunting, but then came the accident - just down the street at Table 104, that cost him the use of his right leg.  Read his story.  You likely have already heard it.  Meanwhile, please invite your Jewish and non-Jewish friends to register for this Seder.  We want as diverse a group as possible - and space is limited.  

For those looking for related material to use at your Seder, HIAS has just come out with its Passover supplement.  

Here's an excerpt:

Centuries ago, only those who were free enjoyed the luxury of dipping their food to begin a meal. In celebration of our people's freedom, tonight, we, too, start our meal by dipping green vegetables. However, we also remember that our freedom came after tremendous struggle. And so, we dip our vegetables into salt water to recall the ominous waters that threatened to drown our Israelite ancestors as they fled persecution in Egypt, as well as the tears they shed on that harrowing journey to freedom. As we dip, we recognize that, today, there are more than 65 million people still making these treacherous journeys away from persecution and violence in their homelands. As we dip the karpas into salt water tonight, we bring to mind those who have risked and sometimes lost their lives in pursuit of safety and liberty.

I close with some inspiring words from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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